March 5, 2019 – All of a sudden, there are two new wine bars in Carmel Valley Village. Just like that. Neither one has a kitchen, (neither does Wine House), so the emphasis is big on wine and small on food.
Village Wine & Tap Room, formerly “The Tasting Experience,” is owned by Jessica and Michael Trask, who aim to showcase local winemakers who don’t have tasting rooms. They carry an array of limited production wines that are exclusive and hard to find. The place is at 19 E Carmel Valley Road suite G, next door to Windy Oaks at the east end of the Carmel Valley Village. It’s in the same block as Parsonage, Chesebro, Rexford and Ian Brand.
Their soft opening is scheduled for this Friday, March 8, from 12—7pm, with a Grand Opening planned on Saturday, March 30. Their hours will be Thursday through Monday, from noon to 7pm; closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Jessica explains that among the winemakers they’ll be featuring are Miguel Lepe of Lepe Cellars, Sam Smith, assistant winemaker at Morgan, who has his own private label, Samuel Smith Wines, and Ryan Kobza, winemaker for Big Sur Vineyards and assistant winemaker to Ian Brand, whose own label is Kobza Wines. She’s also excited to feature winemaker, Emily Hunt, who is Greg Vita’s assistant winemaker: her personal brand is Drench. Miguel Lepe has made both a house red and white wine on tap for them, with help from the owners on blending.
A visit here will be a novel experience as you familiarize yourself with new winemakers and new wines.
“The wines we have so far are Lepe Cellars, Kobza Wines, Sinecure, Sam Smith, Drench, Madeline, JeMarie, Larkspur, Slingstone, Sea Run, Corral Wine Company, plus our house wines, with several more coming our way,” she says.
Jessica has a long history in the wine world, having worked at Parsonage, Bernardus and several others. “We want to help these winemakers get their labels out there, so more people can become familiar with their wines. Our focus will be local,” she adds.
And yes, there will be beer. “We are going to offer mostly local beers on tap,” says Jessica. “We have 12 taps and will have English ales, beers from Alvarado Street brewery, Carmel Craft and Discretion Brewery from Santa Cruz, as well as a guest tap. Beers will be rotating. We’ll carry local Valley products such as olive oils, nuts, artwork, and so forth. We wanted to support our local venders as well as our local community. I’m born and raised in Carmel Valley, and it’s been exciting watching the Village grow. We’re still a well-hidden secret but slowly the secret is getting outta the bag!”
She admits that for now, they’re not really doing food except for some complimentary bar snacks. She plans to have a chef cater small cheese and charcuterie boards. They will try out different events throughout the month, to see what works and what the local crowd wants.
Asked why she and her husband decided to open a wine bar of this type, Jessica explains, “I’ve worked in the wine industry for 16 years, for 8 small family wineries, and have always dreamed of having a unique wine bar. My husband loves the wine industry and when the bar became available we jumped at the chance to make our dream come true! Really, it was a ‘now or never’ kind of moment for us. My husband still has a construction and real estate development company, that we still run.”
Jessica’s start in wine began when she moved back home from college and her mother told her to get a job. She started at Talbott in January 2003 and fell in love with everything that had to do with wine. She met her husband Michael, who was living in San Diego at the time, on a camping trip to Lake Nacimiento later that year. For 5 months, she drove 8 hours each weekend to visit him, before they decided to elope. After living in San Diego for 10 years, where she remained involved with wine, she and Michael returned to Carmel in 2012. Shortly thereafter, she began working at Parsonage, as well as Dawn’s Dream and Galante. Then stints at Boekenoogen, then at Bernardus: she knows the Village well and has watched it evolve. She also helped out at the Galante winery and cattle ranch, where she kept her horse. “Horses and wine?” she muses. “Does it get any better than that?”
After spending most of the past year in Florida, with her mother in law, who passed away from cancer a few months ago, the couple returned to Carmel Valley. Says Trask, “We decided it was time to do our own thing and make our dream come true. I grew up here and having worked in the industry so long, I’ve made a lot of lasting relationships and have been completely amazed at the support we’ve received since purchasing the bar and rebranding it. Our logo, created by a talented local artist, Nachi (who also did Miguel Lepe’s logo) depicts our two bulldogs, Elle and Emma, who are known widely in our community!”
Jessica and Michael, who is living with stage 2 Lynch syndrome, a hereditary form of colon cancer that increases the risk of colon cancer, endometrial cancer and several other cancers, (they lost his mother to colon cancer last year), are on the board for this years Project DNA genetic testing and awareness fundraiser, and will be hosting some smaller events for it at the wine bar.
Jessica invites you to come and meet the renegade winemakers and experience their artisanal approach from grape to glass.
Sangria Wine and Tapas Bar is now open at 5 Del Fino Place, next to Trailside Café at the west end of the village, near the Big Sur Vineyards tasting room. It is owned by Robert and Colleen Mann, and they open at the crack of dawn, 6:30AM, with coffee and fresh pastries, along with all the wine you could possibly drink at that hour of the day. They have two Wine Station automatic dispensers, so you can serve yourself. They will offer a variety of cheeses, smoked salmon, caviar and tapas.
Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.